Egypt’s Brotherhood claims early lead

Counting under way after two days of voting in country’s first free presidential election – Published on Al Jazeera, by Evan Hill and Matthew Cassel, May 25, 2012. See also the video, 2.08 min.

  • Ballot counting has begun in Egypt after two days of historic voting to choose the country’s first democratically elected president, with the Muslim Brotherhood claiming lead.
  • Early on Friday morning, the Brotherhood, the country’s most powerful political force, announced that its candidate was in the lead, followed by a divisive former civil aviation minister more closely tied to Mubarak than anyone else in the race.
  • Mohamed Morsi, from the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, is one of thirteen people vying for the position. 
  • However, the overall picture will not be clear for some time. The presidential election commission did not plan to release official results until Tuesday.
  • If no one wins more than half the votes needed for outright victory in the first round, the top two candidates will contest a June 16 and 17 run-off.
  • The Brotherhood’s estimate was based on results from 236 of roughly 13,000 polling stations. Campaigns were allowed to station observers in the polls throughout the voting and counting process, and the influential Islamist group had placed staff in nearly each one.
  • The Brotherhood is hoping for a presidential victory to seal its political domination of Egypt, as it already holds nearly half of parliament after victories in elections late last year.
  • Though Morsi looked relatively secure in his lead, the rest of the race remained unclear, with an ex-Brotherhood doctor, a former secretary-general of the Arab League and a socialist former parliamentarian jostling for second place, according to Brotherhood and local media estimates.Though turnout around Cairo and other governorates appeared to drop slightly compared to Wednesday, the country’s presidential election committee on Thursday estimated that around 50 per cent of registered voters turned out.
  • Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has congratulated Egypt on its “historic” presidential election, and said Washington was ready to work with a new government in Cairo.
  • “We will continue to stand with the Egyptian people as they work to seize the promise of last year’s uprising and build a democracy that reflects their values and traditions, respects universal human rights, and meets their aspirations for dignity and a better life,” Clinton said in a statement.

Divisive candidate: … //

… Calm process:

  • Polling places in and around Cairo visited by Al Jazeera reported different numbers, with 36 per cent of registered voters participating in some polling centres in the Nazlat el-Semman neighbourhood of Giza, while 66 per cent came out at a school in the Moqattam neighbourhood of Cairo.
  • “This is the first time we will choose our president in 7,000 years,” said Mustafa Mahmoud Mustafa at the Moqattam Basic Education School.
  • Judges and prosecutors serving as election authorities oversaw what appeared to be an orderly and calm process, and reports of violations were few and relatively minor.
  • In Nazlat el-Semman, 50-year-old Sayyid el-Maymouny, who owns a shop on the edge of the Giza plateau and sells tourist trinkets within site of the Pyramids, said he was supporting Amr Moussa, the former Arab League chief and Mubarak-era foreign minister.
  • He scorned Ahmed Shafiq, saying he was the true “felool,” or regime remnant, not Moussa.
  • “For a year and a half, politicians have been causing us trouble, and we feel if Ahmed Shafiq wins, it will not go well,” Maymouny said. “I used to stand in Tahrir, I used to go to the square during the revolution.”
  • The powers of Egypt’s next president are still unclear, since the current constitution – the result of a drafting process led by the ruling military council – is meant to be temporary.
  • In the Nile Delta, voter turnout was relatively low on Thursday, despite it being declared a holiday for government workers.
  • As Hana Badr left a voting station in the working class town of Tanta, she said she did not care who won as long as “it’s a decent man who’ll focus on the youth”.
  • “I have children with university degrees who can’t find jobs. It’s not just Tanta, it’s the whole of Egypt,” she said.
  • With unemployment as high as 25 per cent among the youth in much of Egypt, voters across the Delta shared the sentiment.
  • In the city of Mahalla, home to Egypt’s textile industry, 18-year-old Mohamed Khairy told Al Jazeera that the youth were being poorly educated adding that “it doesn’t allow for critical thinking”.
  • An older man said: “I’m voting Amr Moussa or Ahmed Shafiq!”
  • He admitted that the two candidates whom he supported most were part of the old regime, but said they would be jailed if they “messed” with the country.
  • “The people are too powerful,” he said.

(full text).

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More In Deepth coverages on Al Jazeera, May 24, 2012:

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